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Five Fast Facts:Peter Dankelson of Pete's Diary on Starting a Band and new track"Girl In A Magazine"

Peter Dankelson is known for his inspirational story and for shredding guitar. Growing up with Goldenhar Syndrome, living with a facial difference and hearing loss was not an easy feat for Peter to overcome. Still, Peter found confidence in playing the guitar and has become a motivational speaker, author, online personality, and recording artist. Peter has played with many guitar legends like Joe Bonamassa, Orianthi, Tyler Bryant, and Jared James Nichols and was featured in the May issue of Guitar World. In 2021 Peter founded his band, Pete's Diary, a rock trio based in Chicago. Their debut EP, All Screwed Up, was just released in July '23, with their first full-length album, produced by Keith Nelson, set to release in 2024. This week, Stef sat down with Peter to talk about starting a band and one of his new tracks, "Girl In A Magazine."

Peter Dankelson by Derick Smith

1. SJ: Hi Peter, I’m so excited to have the chance to speak with you! Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to pick up your first guitar? What about writing music?

PD: I began listening to a lot of rock music toward the end of my first year of high school, and I started thinking it might be cool to play the guitar. Luckily for me, my Dad still had his Fender Musicmaster and a Peavey amp. He pulled them out of storage and said, “Have fun!” That was seven years ago, and I haven’t stopped playing since!

Writing songs was the next logical step to becoming an artist. I had written lots of riffs and saved them in voice memos on my phone. It took some time, but I finally got a band together, and we started putting those riffs into songs. Pete’s Diary is a trio. Our singer/bass player is Mac McRae, and our drummer is Ryan “Rocky” Johnson.

2. SJ: What do you feel is the hardest part of the music industry? How do you overcome or navigate it?

PD: For me, the first obstacle was getting a band together. It’s difficult to find musicians that want what you want and who have the right mix of talent, personality, and ability to stay committed. I knew both Ryan and Mac through a School of Rock franchise. We were each looking for a band and to write our own music. Putting our friendship first is always a priority. Each of us is equally important to the success of our music.

Another obstacle is finding good mentors and professionals. Our EP was produced by Trapper Schoepp, who is a long-time friend. We met through a charity that we both volunteer for, Harmony 4 Hope. Trapper is a different genre of music, but having someone we trusted was important. We recorded the EP at Wire & Vice Studio in Milwaukee, and it was a fantastic first experience for each of us. For our upcoming album, we reached out to a trusted friend who introduced us to Keith Nelson, formerly of Buckcherry. We were looking for help with both songwriting and producing. We’ve made two trips to Keith’s studio in Los Angeles and now have a full album of songs written.

Peter Dankelson by Derick Smith

3. SJ: You’ve been playing since you were 15 years old, and already have had so many milestones like playing with Joe Bonamassa and Orianthi! What do you feel has been your biggest or most exciting moment so far?

PD: Playing “Rip and Tear” with L.A. Guns at the Whisky A Go Go is probably my most exciting moment so far. To play with L.A. Guns at such an iconic venue was pretty incredible.

4. SJ: You just released a new track “Girl In A Magazine” with your incredible band, Pete’s Diary. Can you tell us a little bit about the writing and recording process behind this track? What’s the story behind it?

PD: I posted a TikTok video with that riff in it, and Mac McRae, our singer/bass player saw it and wanted to write something to it. Mac had a chord progression he was messing around with, and we put the two together. It was the last song we wrote for the EP, but we all feel that it’s our strongest song. Mac wrote the lyrics.

Pete's Diary by Derick Smith

5. SJ: What is one song you wish you wrote? One riff you wish you wrote?

PD: There’s a song called “Halo” by SMKC (Slash, Myles Kennedy, and The Conspirators). It’s really clever how the riff is put together, and it just rocks.

SJ: What’s next for Pete’s Diary? Can we look forward to any new music, shows, or an album?! PD: As I mentioned, we have a full album of songs written with Keith Nelson. Our plan is to record them at his studio before the end of this year. No release timeline yet, but it will be out sometime next year. We are planning to distribute the album on all streaming services and also have vinyl available through our website.

We would like to tour next summer either as an opening act for an established band or on our own. Our social following of more than 800k is literally all over the world, and it would be nice to reach some of those fans and connect in person. Plus, we love to play live!

SJ: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us about your journey and we can’t wait to hear what you create next!

PD: Thank you for the opportunity to share more about Pete’s Diary and our music.

All Screwed Up Pete's Diary


Stream "Girl In A Magazine" below!


Songwriting: Mac McRae, Peter Dankelson & Ryan Johnson

Production: Trapper Schoepp

Mix: Ian Olvera

Master: Justin Perkins, Mystery Room Mastering

Recorded: Wire & Vice Studio in Milwaukee, WI


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